Role of the Citizen Artist Explored in Forum Hosted by The Aspen Institute Arts Program and The Music Center

March 6, 2013

Contact:  Bonnie Goodman for The Music Center

Erica Sheftman for The Aspen Institute

— Leading Performing and Visual Artists Join Policy Makers, Social Activists, Community Organizers and Arts Administrators in Discussion and Demonstration — 

LOS ANGELES (March 6, 2013) – As part of a leadership initiative on the ways artists can make an impact beyond traditional performance settings, The Aspen Institute Arts Program and The Music Center convened an interactive dialogue and demonstration among leaders in the arts world called “The Citizen Artists Public Forum.”  Led by Damian Woetzel, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and now Director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, the forum, open to the public, was the final event of a day-long closed door session of the Aspen Arts Strategy Group (a program of the Aspen Institute Arts Program), which also included roundtable discussions and community dialogues designed to surface and share ways artists can bring their unique abilities to such fields as education, diplomacy and health care.  The Los Angeles convening was the second meeting of the Aspen Arts Strategy Group; the inaugural event took place in New York in October 2012, and culminated in a discussion and demonstration hosted by Woetzel and cellist, arts education advocate and 2013 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence of the Aspen Institute, Yo-Yo Ma.

“The idea that the arts can play a role in society beyond the stage or the studio is the driving premise behind the Citizen Artists initiative,” said Aspen Institute Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel. “Working here in partnership with The Music Center, we have connected the overall goals and message of Citizen Artists with issues and geography particular to the Los Angeles area, in order to expand the opportunities for this type of work, and to share and build on the ways that artists and arts organizations are best able to make a positive difference in our country today.”

Participants included a broad array of highly recognized and accomplished musicians, dancers, actors and visual artists as well as arts policy makers, administrators, presenters and community organizers, who explored how the role of the arts in social change has evolved to one that helps forge and strengthen community.  According to Woetzel, that effort starts with the citizen artist, who contributes to society by bringing the arts into nontraditional settings, and creating interactions that serve as part of a broader solution for critical social issues.

“With its various themes and platforms, the arts have long played a powerful role in education by building creative thinkers, and in the economy of our nation, by advancing the development of great cities,” said Stephen D. Rountree, president and CEO of The Music Center.  “What is now very exciting is the acknowledgement that the artist, with the connections he or she makes with an audience, can advance the development of a true global community,” Rountree added.

Forum panelists included Jamie Bennett, Chief of Staff at the National Endowment for the Arts; Arthur Bloom, founder and director of MusiCorps; Olga Garay-English, executive director, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; Father Greg Boyle, founder, Homeboy Industries; Shepard Fairey, contemporary artist; Kiff Gallagher, musician, CEO and Founder, MusicianCorps; Michael John Garcés, artistic director, Cornerstone Theater Company; Midori Goto, acclaimed violinist and arts educator; Karen Mack, founder and executive director, LA Commons; Anne Parsons, president and CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, Memphis jooker; Yosi Sergant, owner, Task Force; Thor Steingraber, vice president of programming, The Music Center; and Alfre Woodard, Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress. 

Forum participants discussed “citizen artistry” in policy and practice through a series of short conversations, on questions ranging from the role of art in advancing our communities, schools and healthcare centers in the 21st century, to how artists can be effective policymakers. The hour-long program was interspersed with musical and spoken-word demonstration of the arts in action.  Several participants, including Arthur Bloom, Kiff Gallagher, Midori Goto, Alfre Woodard and 2008 Sphinx competition-winning violinist Danielle Belen, joined Woetzel in a morning “Arts Strike,” an event first piloted in 2010 by Woetzel and Ma, who sought local partners around the country to create opportunities for interactive engagement among students and celebrated artists.  Students from Inner-City Arts in Skid Row were visited by Woetzel in his second Arts Strike event at the school.  

About The Aspen Institute Arts Program

The Aspen Institute Arts Program was established to support and invigorate the arts in America and to return the arts to the center of the Aspen Institute’s “Great Conversation.” Directed by Damian Woetzel, it brings together artists, advocates, educators, managers, foundations and government officials to exchange ideas and develop policies that strengthen the reciprocal relationship between the arts and society. For more information, visit and follow @AspenInstArts on Twitter.

About The Music Center

A leader at the cultural heart of Los Angeles County, The Music Center brings to life one of the world’s premier arts destinations by creating opportunities for arts participation, enabling compelling programming and providing first-class venues and services. The Music Center is one of the largest and most highly regarded performing arts centers in the country, creating a cultural hub that is central to L.A.’s status as “the creative capital” of the world. Celebrated for its illustrious dance programming Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center and home to four world class resident companies – Center Theatre Group, LA Opera, LA Phil and Los Angeles Master Chorale – The Music Center is the place to experience the most innovative and critically-acclaimed performing arts in the nation. In its effort to extend the reach and accessibility of the performing arts, The Music Center is a national model for experiences in which people participate directly through its Active Arts® at The Music Center.  As well, The Music Center presents special productions, events and festivals for children and families, including World City™ at The Music Center.  Each year, more than one million audience members delight in the excitement of live performances on The Music Center’s stages and enjoy free community arts events all year long across its outdoor campus. The Music Center is also on the forefront of arts education in Los Angeles, providing arts resources to students and teachers in schools and community centers throughout the region. For more information, visit and follow The Music Center on Facebook and Twitter (@MusicCenterLA).

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